PR is (also) for turkeys

The perfect Thanksgiving centerpiece – a large, stuffed bird with crisp brown skin to be carved by the man of the house (or at my girlfriend’s house, her mother.)

Shelves are stocked with turkeys, frozen and fresh, as the industry prepares for 95 percent of Americans to eat some variety of the bird.

Somehow by the turkey making its way to the Thanksgiving table, it is now a staple of American culture for holidays and the spending habits keep up thanks to the National Turkey Federation. Everything belongs to an organization, you shouldn’t be too surprised. But this is a group with serious lobbying power and strong opinions on farming and fuel legislation, and a huge index of recipes.

It could be in part because of these efforts that turkey is on the upswing – and is accounted as the main reason poultry sales from 2008 to 2012 have jumped from $6 billion to $7.1 billion.

In 2011, more than 219 million were consumed in the United States. The National Turkey Federation estimated that “46 million of those turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter.”

To get here, a lot of public relations strategy was involved.

One of the biggest contributions the NTF makes is the presidential turkey every year, a big press-gaggle of photographers and videographers who are most likely waiting for a turkey to attack the president and wanting to go to a real assignment. But people eat it up. (I know, punny.)

“It’s one of the few things in this world that with rank comes privilege,” said NTF President Joel Brandenberger in a recent article. “There is a lot of attention focused on the industry this time of year, and we enjoy and appreciate that. It presents a great opportunity for us to tell the world about the modern turkey industry.”

Turkey has also been championed as a healthy alternative to beef with growing popularity – something I’m sure the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is not too happy about.

They also have a clear image strategy, complete with social media outreach. The details are inside their 2012 Annual Report, talking about how to let the public and buyers know that turkey is a “healthy and affordable” product.

The NTF had a great YouTube presence in the past, but seem to have let it slip in 2013. Maybe we can expect to see more videos soon, like the great turkey documentary of 2011.

For example, this year people voted online to name the presidential turkeys. And they tweeted about it (well retweeted from the Minnesota Turkey organization, but isn’t that just as great?)

And sure, they’ve gotten some bad press … okay, really bad press … this year, but it doesn’t seem to be impacting their market.